Kentucky lawmakers considering bills to create toll authority

| 3/7/2008

State lawmakers in the Kentucky House and Senate are considering similar bills relating to the creation of public infrastructure authorities to finance large-scale projects such as the Ohio River Bridges.

A Senate bill would create regional tolling authorities for specific projects, while the House version would create one statewide public authority to issue bonds and collect tolls on projects costing more than $500 million.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, filed SB7 on Jan. 8. The bill would set forth the procedure for issuing bonds and collecting tolls through regional tolling authorities.

A member of the Senate Transportation Committee has proposed four amendments to SB7. One would limit the public infrastructure authority to eight members – with four of them being elected officials. Another would require the tolls to be retired 30 days after bonds are paid off.

The bill has not yet advanced to the full Senate for vote.

In the House, a bill with similar intent would instead establish one large authority. It passed through the Appropriations and Revenue Committee on its way to the House floor.

State Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, filed HB689 on Feb. 29.

Committee members voted to attach two amendments to HB689. One would require that at least 50 percent of the funding for public infrastructure projects be from the state’s Road Fund.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate want to make progress on the proposed Ohio River Bridges Project connecting downtown Louisville, KY, with southern Indiana.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement saying he supports the legislation.

The Federal Highway Administration authorized the Ohio River Bridges in 2003 and approved the states’ financial plan for the project in January of this year.

Kentucky will foot 72 percent or $2.92 billion of the $4.07 billion project and Indiana will pay $1.15 billion.

– By David Tanner, staff writer